MECHANICVILLE — It was only fitting that two female golf prodigies who once made local golf history in back-to-back seasons were part of another historic achievement Friday.
Albany Academy for Girls teammates Kennedy Swedick and Nicole Criscone, who each represented the Capital Region at the prestigious national Drive, Chip & Putt competition at Augusta National Golf Club just before the Masters Tournament in 2015 and 2016, respectively, finished 1-2 in the inaugural Section II Girls' Golf Sectional and NYS Qualifier.
Swedick, an eighth-grader, shot a 4-over-par 76, and Criscone, a ninth-grader from Clifton Park, posted an 80 to lead a field of 46 hopefuls. Nine girls advanced to next June’s NYSPHSAA Girls Golf Championship at Deerfield Country Club in Brockport.
Samantha Von Rohr, also from Albany Academy for Girls, was third with an 85, followed by Logan Plowinske of Columbia with an 86, Grace Kochan of Scotia-Glenville with an 89, Schuyler Lorette of Columbia with a 93, Megna Naidu of Guilderland with a 95, Shea Hildenbrandt of Academy of the Holy Names with a 96 and Mollie Thomas of Saratoga Springs with a 97.
This was the first season that girls could compete on their own teams in Section II. Previously, if a female wanted to play high school golf in Section II, they had to play on a boys’ team. Such was the case for the legendary Dottie Pepper of Saratoga Springs, who became the first Capital Region girl to play in a state tournament. Madison Braman of Shaker duplicated that feat a couple of years ago.
Pepper, a 17-time winner and former Rolex Player of the Year on the LPGA Tour, was on hand to address the field before the girls began their historic round. She is currently a television golf analyst and reporter. The Northeastern New York PGA and Northeastern Women’s Golf Association also lent their support running the tournament.
“That was pretty cool that Dottie came to support this event,” said Swedick, an Altamont native who also enjoys playing the piano and skiing, among many other pursuits. “I got a picture of her. She’s such an inspirational golfer that everyone should look up to.”
Swedick got to 2-over-par after reaching the par-5 eighth hole in two and two-putting for a birdie. She continued her solid play, even though she gave up bogeys on the 16th and 18th holes.
“It was really fun out there. I haven’t played this course that much, maybe two or three times when I played on the NENY PGA Junior Tour,” Swedick explained. “It was a little windy, and the greens were pretty fast and challenging. It was a really good course and a lot of fun.”
Swedick, who posted five birdies, said she was a little surprised by how difficult the course played.
“It did surprise me. Some of the pins were in weird positions. The greens were also so fast, and that made it harder, but everyone had to play the same greens,” she said.
Already a veteran of many regional and national junior events, Swedick said she is enjoying the team atmosphere at Albany Academy.
“We have quite the team. Our entire team is quite amazing,” she said. “We all play, and we are all supportive of each other. Playing in the states would be really cool. I know some of the other girls from out of the area. Playing with the girls who made it from here, and against the other girls from out of the area will be a great experience.”
NENY PGA pro Anders Mattson, who runs a golf academy in Saratoga Springs, has coached Swedick for several years.
“As it looks now, I’ve coached three of the nine girls who will be going to states, and that’s awesome,” Mattson said. “Being part of this is important to me. Kennedy wanted to win this, and it’s great to see her win. “
Mattson was asked why Swedick is so exceptional at an extremely young age.
“Golf is not an easy sport,” Mattson said. “But the No. 1 reason for Kennedy’s success is her preparation. It rained all week, and she practiced every day in the pouring rain. She was out there on this course a number of times playing practice rounds. That’s how committed she is. She knows what she wants and when she wants to do it.
“I can’t believe she’s only 12. Her body language and her attitude are great. Golf isn’t just about being good. It’s about handling the pressure. This was a tough golf course, and she handled it well.”
Criscone and Swedick were rivals for many years on the NENY PGA Junior Tour, and now they are teammates. It’s no surprise that Criscone finished close to her friend.
“It was all right,” Criscone said of her play. “The greens were extremely fast, and the pins were really hard, but I played all right. This was awesome the amount of girls who were here for this. I haven’t played individual events with this many girls competing. It was special.”
Like Swedick, Criscone has an outstanding resume for a player so young. Besides competing in the national Drive, Chip & Putt, she was a dominant player in her age group in NENY PGA Junior Tour events and also played in the Girls Junior PGA Championship.
“This is one of the better tournaments I’ve played in,” Criscone said. “I played in the Girls Junior PGA Championship, and that was very important, but this is pretty close to that.”
Team scores — Albany Academy for Girls 341, Shenendehowa 432, Saratoga Springs 448, Guilderland 470, Shaker 482.
Qualifiers — Kennedy Swedick (Albany Academy) 76, Nicole Criscone (Albany Academy) 80, Samantha Von Rohr (Albany Academy) 85, Logan Plowinske (Columbia) 86, Grace Kochan (Scotia-Glenville) 89, Schuyler Lorette (Columbia) 93, Megna Naidu (Guilderland) 95, Shea Hildenbrandt (Holy Names) 96, Mollie Thomas (Saratoga Springs) 97.
Other top scores — *-Allison Hathaway (Hoosick Falls) 98, *-Jillian Rawson (Albany Academy) 100, Maria Jackson (Saratoga Springs) 102, Campbell Kennedy (Shenendehowa) 102, Emma Duval (Ballston Spa) 103, Bella Maruca (Maple Hill) 104, McKenna Cutri (Shenendehowa) 104, Adrianna DellaBella (Queensbury) 105, Charlee Kennedy (Shenendehowa) 106, Ava Wasula (Shaker) 109, Dannah Smith (Schalmont) 109, Roarinbrook Smith (North Warren) 111, Geena Burkich (Queensbury) 111, Lily Gray (Bethlehem) 113, Elle Lyda (Bethlehem) 113, Hannah Byun (Shaker) 113, Paige Cormie (Argyle/Fort Edward) 113, Mia D’Angelico (Queensbury) 114, Cammy Porter (Saratoga Springs) 118, Shea White (Albany Academy) 118, Madison Martel (Catholic Central) 118, Sienna Wheeler (Colonie) 118, Molly Bisceglia (Troy) 119, MacKenzie Finn (Shenendehowa) 120.